Starfucker (STRFKR)

Starfucker (STRFKR)

It's hard to say exactly when it happened.

It could've been during one of the 100+ shows STRFKR played over the past two years—ecstatic sold-out dance parties that started in tiny, sweaty rooms before word of mouth spread and forced a move to larger (and even sweatier) venues.

It might've been when touring guitarist Patrick Morris officially became a full-time member in late 2011, rounding out a line-up that included multi-instrumentalists Josh Hodges, Shawn Glassford, and Keil Corcoran.

Most likely, though, there wasn't a single defining moment when the change occurred. With evolution there rarely is.

Instead, progression happens naturally and steadily—each step leading inevitably to the next until you reach a point when you realize how far you've come without even being fully aware of how you got there.

In early 2012, during a rare break in the group's touring schedule, Hodges retreated to secluded Astoria, Oregon. But this time, rather than completely isolating himself to work on new material (as had always been the case in the past), Hodges invited the other members to visit often and truly collaborate in the process of writing STRFKR's third full-length, Miracle Mile.

And so it was that STRFKR became a band.

As a result, whether participating in all-night lyric writing sessions, fleshing out song skeletons originally conceived during European soundchecks ("Malmo") and long van rides ("Leave It All Behind"), or completing half-finished ideas kicking around Hodges' brain and hard drive, there isn't a single song on Miracle Mile that every member of STRFKR didn't contribute to and ultimately improve.

For proof, look no further than first single and opening track "While I'm Alive," a song that bursts out of the gate with what can only be described as swagger. Not overconfidence or false bravado, but the undeniable sound of a band that knows exactly who they are: swirling keyboards that take you up, down, and all around, rhythmic guitars, irresistible basslines, and drums that keep an unrelenting beat.

Disco-y standout "Atlantis" is the paragon of this formula, with vocal and musical hooks seemingly custom fitted to a spot so deep inside your eardrums they'll never dislodge.

But upbeat isn't Miracle Mile's only tempo.

In fact, it's in quieter moments like "Isea," which briefly slows down the album's pulse with gentle "oh-oh-ohs" over acoustic guitar, that the record truly coalesces as a complete whole that couldn't have come together any other way.

Just like STRFKR.

Small Black

Gracing the cover of Brooklyn band Small Black's new record, a mysterious woman walks alone on the dunes at dusk, amid pockmarked sand. She's the subject of a found photo, one of many rescued with the warmth of a blow dryer and a fireplace, by singer Josh Hayden Kolenik after Hurricane Sandy flooded his family's Long Island home. The faded image offers clues and invites viewers to construct their own narrative, one that escapes even the picture's taker, Kolenik's father.

To put it simply, Best Blues is an album about loss, the specific loss of precious people in our lives, but also the loss of memories and the difficult fight to preserve them. "I spent months trying to scan all these images & letters, most covered with ocean dirt, and in doing so discovered what people often find in their family's past: that they are a hell of a lot like those who'd come before," says Kolenik. The chorus of standout "Boys Life" echoes this sentiment with the refrain "pictures of youth/picturing you," over a track that itself was an old demo re-discovered by accident by the band, during a late night jam session at a cabin in Upstate NY. The compassion of the record collects itself in the soft repeating mantra-esque hook in "No One Wants It To Happen To You".

The group's third full length release, written & recorded at their Brooklyn home studio, nicknamed 222, showcases a band still evolving, and embracing the unpredictable. Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums) have been recording, writing, and often living together, throughout the life of the band, establishing a closeness that has allowed them to achieve easy creativity and unspoken chemistry. After a year of recording, that band enlisted mixer Nicholas Vernhes (War on Drugs, Deerhunter) of Rare Book Room Studio to help complete the record.

Best Blues finds the band in their sweet spot: the smoky intersection of considered & vulnerable songwriting and loose, almost nonchalant ambience. The addition of piano flourishes, trumpet (Darby Cicci of The Antlers), hidden acoustic guitars and Kaede Ford's ethereal vocals provide new dimensions to the band's already expansive sonic palette. Cut-to-the-chase rippers "Back at Belle's" & "Checkpoints" embody & build on the group's signature gritty yet focused electronic sound. While the more pastoral tracks, such as "Between Leos," & "XX Century," skeletally based on recorded improvisations, find the band painting a more nuanced, assured aural portrait. The repeating of the line "twentieth century" on closer, "XX Century", serves as a coda for the album, offering a simple summation of what Best Blues' intent has been from the opening Casio stab: an attempt to re-examine the past, but also one to let it go.

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